One month in, one overreaction for each team

2 years ago

With April in the books, there’s one thing you can be sure of when it comes to the baseball season: Early overreactions. So in the spirit of getting way ahead of ourselves, here’s a look at one overreaction for each club as we enter the season’s second month, with the help of each of our 30 beat writers:

Blue Jays: Romano is baseball’s best closer
Charlie Montoyo has said this 500 times in April, and he might just be on to something. Jordan Romano’s peripherals earlier in April weren’t quite as dominant — his velocity included — but the Canadian right-hander has heated up and continues to lock down the ninth inning. On a team that seems determined to hand him all the save opportunities he can handle in 2022, Romano should have every opportunity to lead MLB in saves. If his strikeouts stay up and that ERA stays down, he could be in a conversation with baseball’s best. – Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Zimmermann is a budding ace
Would you believe that Bruce Zimmermann owns a 0.93 ERA and 405 ERA+ through his first four starts, each good enough for third in the Majors among qualified arms? With a changeup that’s taken on new life, among the best at inducing whiffs, he’s the Orioles’ surprise ace in the early going of the season. The club has already seen John Means ascend from periphery to stardom due in part to an elite changeup; why not a hometown kid in Zimmermann? — Zachary Silver

Rays: Arozarena’s magic has worn off
After 21 games, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year is hitting just .210/.247/.309 with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 85 plate appearances. Randy Arozarena still hasn’t homered. His season-opening slump — one of many the Rays are enduring — stands out after his 20-homer, 20-steal rookie campaign. Are we sure the Rays can count on him to anchor their lineup? Not so fast, friends. Arozarena has shown clear signs of a turnaround the last two days, smashing hits on the two hardest-hit batted balls of his Major League career immediately after he made an adjustment to his stance at the plate. He went 2-for-4 with a couple of doubles on Sunday and looked a lot more like himself in the process. Arozarena also experienced cold stretches last season, but he was capable of carrying the lineup when he got hot — and it’ll happen again this year, too. — Adam Berry

Red Sox: Story will never hit a homer away from Coors Field
Red Sox fans aren’t known for their patience and Trevor Story going homerless in April after signing a six-year, $140-million contract has given them something to fixate on. Well, here’s the deal: Story is too good to keep hitting — or not hitting — like he has been. We know what the easy jumping-off point is: Story’s power must have simply been a product of hitting at Coors Field. You can shoot down this theory by noting some recent Rockies (Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu) who went on to do fine after finding new homes. The deal with Story is that he had a shortened Spring Training made even shorter when he left camp to attend the birth of his first child. And on the first road trip of the season, he got food poisoning. Between the time he missed, gaining comfort in his new surroundings and also learning a new position at second base, Story has had a lot to digest. He will be fine once he gets his feet under him and likely still hit 20-plus homers this season. — Ian Browne

Yankees: Rizzo is going to have a career year
When the Yankees re-signed Anthony Rizzo in March, it was a move that seemed to fly under the radar for many — Rizzo was on the Yanks’ roster last season, so some fans might not have realized he was a free agent, and he seemed to be a fallback option after the club not-so-quietly flirted with other first basemen like Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson. Yet Rizzo is healthy and taking advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch, leading the Majors with nine home runs in April. Rizzo’s career high in homers is 32, which he’s done three times. Now that he’s calling the Bronx home, could Rizzo belt 33 or more this year? That might not be such a crazy thought. — Bryan Hoch

Guardians: J-Ram will lead the Majors in RBIs
Through the end of April, José Ramírez was on pace to knock in 216 runs this season. That seems attainable, right? All right, so maybe he won’t break the all-time RBI record set by Hack Wilson in 1930 (191), but he certainly has a chance to at least outpace all other hitters in the category. We’ve seen just how dominant he can be at the plate even when his team is struggling, as he’s finished in the top six in AL MVP Award voting in four of the last five seasons (three of which were top three placements). What will make this task even more difficult is the Guardians know that they have their work cut out for them this season, offensively. If Ramírez can find a way to knock 100+ runs in with an inexperienced lineup around him, it’ll make the feat even more impressive. — Mandy Bell

Royals: Salvy’s 2021 offensive breakout was a fluke
Salvador Perez put together a historic 2021 season with 48 home runs, sharing the MLB lead and tying the Royals’ single-season franchise record. He hasn’t been the same hitter in ’22 yet, with a .686 OPS, 24 strikeouts and five home runs through 20 games. Panicking about his slow start would surely be an overreaction, though. The Royals aren’t worried in the slightest, knowing Perez’s track record, the small sample size of 20 games and that he can heat up at any moment and get the job done in the middle of the lineup. — Anne Rogers

Tigers: Detroit will back up Comerica Park’s reputation with the fewest homers in MLB
Blame it on the big confines of Comerica Park, the cold April in Michigan or rough starts from some of Detroit’s key producers, but the Tigers are near the bottom of the league in home runs, doubles and slugging percentage. In fairness, the Tigers slashed and ran their way to a summer turnaround last season with Robbie Grossman leading the team with 23 homers. But whatever the Tigers’ fate, just give Detroit its moment in the summer sun — literally. — Jason Beck

Twins: Ryan will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award … and the Cy Young Award
Even Twins fans were surprised (pleasantly so) when the club showed enough faith in the 25-year-old Joe Ryan to start him on Opening Day — after he made only five starts in a brief big league cameo at the end of last season. One month in, forget being the best pitcher in this surprising Twins rotation; he’s been one of the best pitchers in the AL, period. He’s got a 1.17 ERA with 10 hits allowed in 23 innings, and according to STATS, Inc., he’s posted the best WHIP through nine career starts (0.745) since … Christy Mathewson in 1901. At that point, Babe Ruth was 6 years old and Fenway Park was a decade away from opening. What if he never slows down? — Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: The offense lacks considerable force
There was little question the 2022 White Sox were going to hit, right? In fact, the offense looked to be a backbone of the team’s championship quest after two straight first-round playoff eliminations. Based on one month and one day of work, though, this assumption appeared to be wrong. The team ranks 27th in the Majors with 69 runs scored, although just missed pulling off a seven-run, ninth-inning walk-off during a 6-5 home loss to the Angels on Sunday. They are 30th in walks by a good margin, checking in at 44, while sitting 24th with a .622 OPS. But this downward trend should reverse course. José Abreu is going to hit, as are Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal. Let’s not forget Yoán Moncada is on his way back to the lineup via an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. The White Sox offense also hasn’t been very lucky, as shown by a Friday loss where they had seven balls put in play with a 100 mph exit velocity or above, per Statcast, and one hit among the seven. Beware when this team gets healthy and in sync at the plate. — Scott Merkin

Angels: Trout is again the favorite for AL MVP
Remember Mike Trout? Yeah, the three-time American League MVP and nine-time All-Star? He’s back with a vengeance this season after being limited to just 36 games because of a strained calf last year. Trout is off to one of the best starts of his career, mixing in his usual combination of incredible power, speed and patience. He could very well be on his way to yet another MVP season, although his teammate Shohei Ohtani would like to have a say in that as well after winning the award unanimously last year. — Rhett Bollinger

Astros: Tucker doesn’t like playing in April
After hitting .181/.238/.372 with five homers and 15 RBIs last April, Kyle Tucker posted some of the best offensive numbers in the AL after May 1, leading the league in average, slugging, on-base percentage and OPS. This year, Tucker hit .224/.277/.408 with four homers and 15 RBIs in April, but only because he caught fire in his last nine games (.471/.457/.733 with two homers and 11 RBIs). Tucker shook off a woeful first 13 games (4-for-46) in April and appears poised to put another slow start behind him. — Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Blackburn is an AL Cy Young Award candidate
While Frankie Montas is considered the ace of the A’s rotation, Paul Blackburn is outperforming his fellow rotation mate and nearly the rest of baseball with a 1.35 ERA that ranks fourth-lowest among AL starters with at least 20 innings pitched. His curveball has emerged as a strong weapon that keeps hitters off balance, and he’s mastering his craft as a ground-ball pitcher with a 56.6% ground-ball rate that ranks second-best in the AL. With the A’s currently 4-0 on days he pitches, Blackburn is one of the biggest early surprises of the 2022 campaign. — Martín Gallegos

Mariners: J-Rod’s sky-high strikeout rate is a big cause for concern
Julio Rodríguez had punched out in 37% of his plate appearances entering Sunday, the fifth-highest rate in baseball among 175 qualified hitters. It’s far from ideal, given that the sample size has now reached nearly one month. However, 10 of his 30 strikeouts have been via a called strike three on pitches that Statcast defined as out of the zone. Those K’s have become a hot topic in Seattle, and Rodríguez’s situation finally came to a head in St. Petersburg last week when manager Scott Servais was ejected after the latest. Yet the fact that Rodríguez keeps getting rung up on those balls rather than chasing after them underscores his strike-zone awareness and disciplined approach. If he continues to maintain those, things should sway his way sooner than later. — Daniel Kramer

Rangers: It may be time to worry about Semien
When the Rangers spent half a billion dollars on the middle infield this offseason, they understandably expected to see an uptick in production at those positions. Shortstop Corey Seager has kept up his part of the deal so far, with four homers and 12 RBIs. But Marcus Semien is off to an uncharacteristically slow start. He’s slashing ​​.149/.224/.207 with a .431 OPS and no home runs. He’s not making great contact either, with his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA all in the bottom 7% of the league. It may not be time to hit the full-on panic button, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye one. — Kennedi Landry

Braves: Center field zaps Duvall’s power
Adam Duvall hit 38 homers last year and he constructed a 43-homer pace during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. But as he has homered just once through this year’s first 23 games, you have to wonder if playing center field on a daily basis is zapping his power. Or maybe, he’s been victimized by some tough luck or early-season weather. His hard-hit rate and average exit velocity are both up from last year. The Braves need to keep Duvall’s legs fresh, but it’s too early to blame fatigue for his power numbers. — Mark Bowman

Marlins: The bullpen is fine without an established closer
With several high-leverage options, four Miami relievers have recorded at least one save. Anthony Bender, who leads the Marlins with six, had the club’s lone blown save on Opening Day. Barring a setback on his rehab assignment, Dylan Floro (15 saves in 2021) will soon join that mix. However, should Miami be in the thick of the playoff hunt come the Trade Deadline, adding a lights-out closer would be a priority. — Christina De Nicola

Mets: The rotation is so good, it doesn’t even need deGrom
So far, that’s certainly been true, as the Mets spent much of April leading the Majors in rotation ERA despite Jacob deGrom’s absence. It’s been a nice story for the first-place Mets, and one that’s raised the ceiling of this team — particularly given the unexpectedly strong showings from Tylor Megill and Carlos Carrasco. But make no mistake: When healthy, deGrom remains arguably the game’s best pitcher. The Mets will need him to get where they ultimately want to go. — Anthony DiComo

Nationals: Soto is on track for a slow season
The NL MVP Award finalist hit .241 the first month of 2022, though that is not cause for concern. Juan Soto feels like he has been seeing the ball well, but he has been pulling too soon. The Nationals are working with him to stay on the ball and hit to the opposite field — “When he starts doing that, you’ll start seeing Juan become the Juan that we see all the time, where he’s hitting two, three balls hard a day,” manager Dave Martinez said. Soto still is getting on base, leading all players in walks and tying for fourth in the NL in runs scored in April. — Jessica Camerato

Phillies: The Phillies just aren’t going to hit
The Phillies started the season slowly, including some of the top hitters in their lineup. So, Philly being Philly, it predicated certain doom for a team built to win on its offense. But the Phillies finished April sixth in baseball in runs per game, averaging 4.55; seventh with a .400 slugging percentage; eighth with a .244 batting average and .717 OPS; and 10th with a .318 on-base percentage. Is Kyle Schwarber hitting as expected? Is Rhys Hoskins? Is Bryce Harper? No, but there is no reason to think they will not get things going. Once they do, the Phillies’ offense should start scoring runs at a greater clip. — Todd Zolecki

Brewers: The Brewers can only beat bad teams!
This is a favorite rallying cry of skeptical fans when a team gets hot during a stretch against sub-.500 opponents, and Craig Counsell’s club did just that during the second half of April. The Brewers joined the Mets and Yankees as MLB’s only 15-win teams in the opening month by going 11-3 against teams that went into the game with a losing record, including 6-0 against the Pirates. Only the Yankees (13-4) and Padres (12-4) racked up more wins against losing teams in April. Just eight of the Brewers’ April games were against teams that began the day .500 or better, and Milwaukee was 4-4 in those games. But as Counsell often says, teams don’t control the teams on their schedule. All they can do is play the game and attempt to play well, and see where the results fall. — Adam McCalvy

Cardinals: Gorman’s pop is so impressive, the Cardinals will have to shift their infield
Nolan Gorman, the home run leader at all levels of baseball with 11 big flies, could force the hand of the Cardinals with his thunderous bat. He’s been so impressive with Triple-A Memphis that the Cardinals must give serious consideration to promoting him. It’s no secret shortstop Paul DeJong is struggling again, and something must give there. One option is to promote Gorman and move the dynamic Tommy Edman — the current MLB leader in Defensive Runs Saved — to short. Another reason to promote Gorman: The Cardinals’ OPS against righties is near the bottom of the NL and the lefty thumper might be the best option at DH. — John Denton

Cubs: The rotation might actually be worse than last season
The big priority for the Cubs over the offseason was to overhaul and improve the starting rotation. And when Spring Training arrived, Chicago had three new veteran pieces (Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Wade Miley), plus rotation leader Kyle Hendricks and some internal options. Well, the rotation that had a 5.27 ERA in 2021 headed into May 2 with a 5.16 ERA in ’22. Hendricks (5.47 ERA) has struggled. Stroman had a 6.98 ERA through four starts before Sunday’s gem. Justin Steele and Smyly have not pitched deep consistently. Miley? He’s been on the injured list since Opening Day with a left elbow issue, joining Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay on the shelf. The abbreviated spring schedule could be partially to blame for some of the troubles involving delivery rhythm and pitch volume. The track record says Hendricks and Stroman should be fine. Miley should help solidify things when he is cleared to return. It’s too early to write off the rotation, but it’s certainly an area in need of improvement. — Jordan Bastian

Pirates: The Pirates will have three All-Stars … with one notable exclusion
Through one month, the Pirates have three players who are already building strong cases to represent Pittsburgh at the Midsummer Classic. Ke’Bryan Hayes has been phenomenal, David Bednar keeps on impressing and Wil Crowe has emerged as an outstanding multi-inning reliever. If we’re talking overreactions, expect all three to suit up for the Senior Circuit. What about Bryan Reynolds? He’s been below-average by Fangraphs WAR, and it will be difficult to make up the lost ground. — Justice delos Santos

Reds: Votto is washed up
Joey Votto is a notorious slow starter many seasons, but April 2022 has been a particularly rough month. The 38-year-old finished April batting .129/.291/.143 with one extra-base hit. He had the second-worst average in MLB among qualified hitters. According to Statcast, he barreled only two balls. Last season, after a slow start, Votto went on to hit 36 homers with 99 RBIs in a resurgent year — including homers in seven consecutive games. He’s used a taller stance in the batter’s box for much of the first month and feels comfortable. Once he finds his rhythm, he believes he will return to his more normal production. — Mark Sheldon

D-backs: Marte is going to hit under .200 this year
It has been a tough start at the plate this year for Ketel Marte, who signed a contract extension during Spring Training, but the notion that he has somehow forgotten how to hit is an overreaction. The team has Marte making some mechanical adjustments at the plate and the offense as a whole has gotten off to a slow start, but during the recent series with the Cardinals, he started to drive the ball a little better. Marte is the kind of hitter that when he gets hot at the plate he can carry an entire team like he did in 2019. Even while battling hamstring injuries last year, he managed to compile a .909 OPS. There’s little doubt that he will find a way to pick things up sooner than later. — Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: Maybe the offense isn’t as good as advertised
On paper, the Dodgers’ offense is one of the best in Major League history. Nearly every starter has made at least one All-Star appearance. Through the first month, the offense has shown flashes of that potential, but it hasn’t been nearly as consistent as everyone expected. Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts are still searching for the usual production. Cody Bellinger showed signs en route to an NL Player of the Week Award, but the former MVP has been inconsistent at the plate. Will there be a month or two that the Dodgers all get hot and set the league on fire? Probably. But what if they don’t? — Juan Toribio

Giants: Ruf is slumping badly
Darin Ruf ended April batting .177 with a .489 OPS and zero home runs over 21 games, but the quality of his at-bats have been better than those numbers indicate. The 35-year-old slugger has consistently been making hard contact, though he doesn’t have much to show for it since he’s watched several balls die at the warning track or be hit right at defenders. Ruf’s bad luck began to turn with a three-hit day against the Nationals on Saturday, though he’ll probably be relieved to hit the refresh button once the calendar flips to May. — Maria Guardado

Padres: Hosmer’s start is for real
OK, fine, Eric Hosmer isn’t going to flirt with .400 all summer. But he’s been excellent to start the season, and that hot start is no fluke. Hosmer is not whiffing like he did last season, and when he makes contact, it’s better contact. He’s hitting the ball hard, as always, but his contact is more line-drive oriented than his previous ground-ball-heavy mix. On top of that, Hosmer, who had struggled defensively the past two seasons, has been nearly flawless at first base (save for one costly miscue on Saturday night). Remember those trade rumors surrounding Hosmer in March? The Padres seem to be pretty glad they kept him around. — AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Bryant signed for $182 million and he will never hit a home run in purple pinstripes
Kris Bryant started off collecting hits, but during the team’s road trip to Detroit and Philadelphia his back acted up, he fell into a slump and then he went to the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain. Well, let’s go back. Even when he was getting hits, his hard-hit rate dipped. But provided he gets healthy, Bryant has a track record. Homers tend to come in bunches. And he plays home games at Coors Field. This will play itself out. — Thomas Harding

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